From friend of the LoCO, Terrence McNally:
One of the more amusing aspects about living in Arcata is watching folks attempt to negotiate the public-private property divide and the gray areas inside. That was fun during the Cypress Grove neighbor outrage over where the company would keep goats and most-recently during peoples’ “rights violations” about their ability to party on the Plaza for NYE. Also, I recognize that when we’re relaying conversations, we often sway the paraphrases to make it look like we were so smart during an exchange.
But this really did just happen.
Arcata has a couple weird no-man’s lands where the City ends and the county begins. My favorite is a two-lane stretch of 27th Street that continues westward past Wyatt Avenue for one-third of a mile and dead-ends in a cul-de-sac that buttresses Sun Valley Group’s agricultural expanse. Arcata, officially, ends at the Wyatt-27th corner, and it becomes Humboldt County out to the gate. When APD is patrolling the neighborhood, they take the corner and cruise back into town. I’ve yet to see a Sheriff’s Deputy driving that third-of-a-mile toward the culdesac. Nor an APD car.
Sometimes when Sun Valley is moving a lot of ag dirt, its trucks will use 27th Street, out the chain link fence. It’s much more convenient for them than taking the long way out to Upper Bay Road. Sometimes the neighbors need to call the SVG front office and remind them that their vehicles exceed the load limit of 27th and that there are a gaggle of little kids in the area.
I know this county stretch because I’ll jog there when I am trying to impress my wife. Actually, it’s more of a shuffle. If I do four loops of 27th to Wyatt and back I can be assured I’ve actually run around three miles. It’s boring and flat, but there’s hardly any car traffic, so I don’t have to worry about too many people seeing how bad my form is. Or how my running shoes don’t come up very high between strides. Sometime you need to jog around the clutch of chickens near the end. There are so few vehicles, that the chickens figure they own the whole road, too.
Also, I wander down there because it can be amusing to see the detritus left by Arcata teenagers who go to the culdesac to do whatever it is that teenagers do when they don’t want to have adults see them doing whatever it is that they do. Many of Arcata’s teenagers know about this flagpole of a road that APD never enters. It is a no-man’s land. But there are frequently boys. A friend of mine, who I knew when he was a teenager, but is now a man, told me while he was a teenager that he and his friends would go down to the culdesac frequently to do what it was that they would do. He said that they called it the Mexican Cul-de-sac. He grew up in Arcata, therefore he didn’t know a lot of non-white people. He knew that I was half-Mexican, so I assumed that he was trying to figure out if telling me that he and his friends called something “Mexican” would be something offensive to me. We both decided that “Mexican Cul-de-sac” was a kinda funny… not laugh-out-loud funny. But chuckle-funny.
He’s now a man and is living in a foreign county with a foreigner he met while he was transitioning between being a boy to becoming a man. They are both very blonde. And now he is a blond in an all-blond country taking jobs that the native-born blonds are able to give him. It is a generous country.
So I wandered down there – this Mexican Cul-de-sac – last evening. Few houses, it was dark and there was a good view of Orion sleeping on his side. After about five minutes, a truck from the Sun Valley side pulled up to the barbwire-topped chain-link fence and idled. You can tell that someone in a vehicle is preparing to impose their will when they flip on the brights… which flooded my face. Then a flashlight popped out of the driver’s side and someone climbed out.
I’m kinda partial to security guards… especially night watchmen. It’s a lonely job. My dad was a night watchman in an aluminum plant. He worked there nights after attending college day classes. He had a Mexican wife and a newborn half-Mexican to take care of. His still-new wife’s family had lived in the area before it was America. Before it was Mexico. Before it was Spain.
The job was lonely, but he had time to read his books in between patrols.
And I figure there’s not a lot of action for a SVG guard, particularly where even the lilies are asleep at nighttime. I assume that this night watchman assumed that I was one of these teenagers who frequent are there. Or he may have assumed that I was a full-Mexican who had stayed well beyond his Sun Valley shift. There are several pine trees out there. But there are no cactuses to sleep beneath, sombrero over face. It’s Arcata.
Anyway, a voice let out from behind the flashlight (and I am being totally honest about how this exchange transpired). He’s yelling above the engine through the cyclone fence.
“What are you doing here?”
“Just enjoying the night air. How about you? Night going good?”
“You know you’re on private property?”
“I don’t believe I am. I’m on county property.”
“You’re on private property. This whole area is private property.”
“This culdesac that I’m at is County of Humboldt.”
“You’re on private property.”
“If I was to hop the fence and come over to where you are, I’d be on Sun Valley Group property. And I’d be trespassing. But right now I’m on public property. This fence is the border between the county and Sun Valley (yes, I did say this).”
“How long are you going to be here?”
“I’m not sure, exactly.”
“If you’re not gone soon, I’m going to call the Arcata Police Department.”
“You might want to call the Sheriff’s Department, because I am on county property instead of in the City of Arcata.”
(by this point the flashlight is beginning a slow bounce back toward the driver’s side of the idling truck)
“If you’re not gone soon, I’m gonna call somebody.”
Then he sped away, kicking up gravel, and I could see the Orion again.